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NB Liberal Policy Discussion Report

April 6, 2018News

The Process

 

The biennial convention preceding an election must include a component for policy development. As part of this requirement and to ensure as many members as possible were engaged in the process, the NBLA organized 12 policy forums across the province.

 

These discussions were used to prepare for the 2018 Biennial Convention in Bathurst. Discussions were framed around five policy themes:

 

  • Growing the Economy
  • Improving Education
  • Strengthening Health Care
  • Protecting the Environment
  • Advancing Women’s Equality

 

During the discussion of each theme, the groups were presented with a list of updated accomplishments and initiatives in each area for the past three and a half years under Premier Gallant’s leadership, and then presented with two questions:

 

  • Considering the above initiatives, how is your Liberal Government performing in this area?
  • At the provincial level, how can we best move forward in this area to improve the lives of New Brunswickers?

 

NBLA staff and volunteers moderated the small group discussions and drafted a summary of key points. This document outlines the key accomplishments and initiatives of each policy theme and then summarizes the key points that were heard across the province from Liberal members. The New Brunswick Liberal Association would like to thank all those who participated to help shape these resolutions. Together, we will move our province forward and help improve the lives for all New Brunswickers.

 

Again, thank you.

 

Policy Themes

Growing the Economy

 

“Over the last year, as your government, we have continued to invest

in our multi-year economic growth plan. Instead of an austerity

agenda, we are investing to create opportunities so our youth can work here

in New Brunswick and so people who have left our province can

come back and work here.” – Hon. Brian Gallant

 

What We’ve Accomplished

 

Over the last three years, New Brunswick experienced the best economic growth in a decade. The province hit a 10-year high in 2015 and the trend continued into 2016. Since 2014, the government has cut the province’s deficit by over 50 per cent.

 

  • Private capital expenditures have rebounded, exceeding 2013 levels in 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2015, they reached almost $2 billion, a level not seen since 2011.
  • Average weekly earnings were up by 2.3 per cent in 2016 – compared to 2.8 per cent growth in 2015 – and above the national result of 0.4 per cent. Tied with Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick had the highest growth in average weekly earnings countrywide in 2016.
  • The unemployment rate has been in the single digits for all of 2017.

 

Some of the measures your Liberal government has taken to support job creation include:

 

  • Released the New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan, which provides a framework for stimulating the economy through coordinated efforts between private and public sector partners. The plan focuses on five economic pillars: people, innovation, infrastructure, capital and agility.
  • Reduced the small business income tax rate to three per cent and introduced legislation to lower it even more.
  • Increased the minimum wage four times since December 2014 to put more money in New Brunswickers’ pockets.
  • Increased taxes for the richest one percent so the government can invest in the economy, health care and education.
  • Invested more money in infrastructure to create jobs and improve roads and schools.
  • Increased investment in the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, as well as in infrastructure, reflecting the government’s commitment to developing tourism in New Brunswick.
  • Implementing and maintaining pay equity as part of an ongoing government commitment to achieving equality for women in the province, giving a better quality of life to women, children and families.
  • Developed a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy with industry leaders, academia and government to help establish New Brunswick as an epicentre of cybersecurity and create high-value jobs.

 

 

What We Heard

 

On the economy:

  • Small businesses are seen as key to growing the economy.  Government initiatives supporting small developers are encouraging.
  • Maybe we should have two economic growth plans – one for larger centres (Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John) and another for smaller centres and rural regions.
  • It is important that we develop a balanced approach to maintain investment all the while encouraging business to reinvest in their companies in New Brunswick.
  • We should consider developing “attraction” zones for various industries.
  • Investing in airport infrastructure is vital to our economic development.
  • We should add value to natural resource industry. We must continue to focus on identifying new market opportunities considering New Brunswick does not have a lot of natural resources to develop like other provinces.  Develop a strategy to recruit young workers in our traditional industries, such as forestry.
  • Find ways to get more products from local farms in local grocery stores, including the major chains.
  • Find ways to enhance Youth Employment Fund to be more used by small businesses. We should look at promoting more entrepreneurship throughout the education system.

 

On wages and the workforce:

  • Consider implementing a basic income guarantee as a pilot project.
  • Minimum wage should go up more.
  • Tap into the “Silver Economy” – Seniors.

 

On infrastructure:

  • New buildings and construction projects and other infrastructure projects contribute to economic growth.
  • Could we repurpose old government buildings, such as schools that close?
  • Public transportation is needed in rural regions.
  • We should also consider tolls – better way to increase revenue from outside?

 

On tourism:

  • Tourism is huge success since Liberals have been in power.
  • Government is on the right track, but could probably do more in the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn).
  • We should be able to take advantage of high number of tourists from Quebec (bike & ski trails).
  • Suggested blitz to get southern NBers to vacation north, and vice versa (staycations).

 

On demography:

  • We need to keep young people in the province.
  • We should look at enhancing local course offerings at local college campuses to allow more young people to stay in their regions.
  • There is a need to increase immigration, be more aggressive with recruitment and retention.
  • We should work with workers’ associations to recognize credentials for people interested in working in the province.

 

Other issues: 

  • The issue of cities amalgamation was raised.  Concerning services, closing of SNB office on certain days of the week is proving difficult, in addition, some special permits are only available in central offices, i.e. Fredericton.

 

 

Improving Education

 

“Your government’s multi-year economic growth plan includes

major investments in education and post-secondary education.

These investments help develop a strong workforce, which, in turn,

helps strengthen our economy.” – Hon. Brian Gallant

 

What We’ve Accomplished

 

Your Liberal government is investing more in education than ever before, including:

 

  • Created 10-year education plans so that young people have the strongest education system possible.
  • Enhanced the Daycare Assistance Program to provide free child care for families with an annual gross income of $37,500 or less who have children aged five and under attending a designated New Brunswick Early Learning Centre, and subsidies available for parents making more than $37,500 on a sliding scale up to a cap of 20% of gross annual income going towards the costs of child care for children 0-5 years old.
  • Created the Free Tuition Program and the Tuition Relief for the Middle Class program, to provide upfront assistance to New Brunswick students and make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable.
  • Developed the Youth Employment Fund to give youth more opportunity to stay in New Brunswick and the chance to get hands-on work experience.
  • Launched Unleashing the power of literacy: New Brunswick’s Comprehensive Literacy Strategy to improve literacy rates in the province.
  • Investing more than $292 million to upgrade current schools.
  • Teaching trades in schools to better prepare young people for future opportunities and investing to upgrade and build trade spaces in schools.
  • Returned Grade 1 French immersion to 68 schools across the province beginning in September 2017.

 

What we heard:

 

On the 10-years education plans:

  • Very positive feedback.  Also: Shortage of teachers; harder to recruit students into teaching programs
  • Invest in breakfast programs and local food for schools.
  • Increased mental health support in schools. Inter-departmental cooperation to address student needs.
  • Get universities and colleges to work with high schools to establish more co-op programs.
  • Community schools with mentoring from business and political leaders.

 

On free child care:

  • Better training for daycare workers is needed.

 

On free tuition:

  • Tuition relief and youth employment funds are positive programs that could be expanded.
  • A study should be conducted on student who leave province for education; how many return and why do they stay?

 

On literacy:

  • Going in right direction with literacy to combat low literacy rates. Return to basics in literacy and numeracy.
  • Increased support for literacy (i.e. financial, etc.)

 

On trades in schools:

  • Putting trades back in schools has been a game changer. Educate kids in their own regions (trades in schools & colleges), and recruit them out of school. Government should look at retirement trends in our industries to help assess training needs.
  • Infrastructure investments support trades education.
  • Homecare training program is a good example of bringing jobs to NB.

 

Strengthening Health Care

 

“We understand how important health care and senior care are to

New Brunswickers. We have a multi-year plan to strengthen the quality

and accessibility of both health and senior care.” – Hon. Brian Gallant

 

What We’ve Accomplished

 

Your Liberal government is investing in health care and improving the quality of life of New Brunswick families. These measures include:

 

  • Expansion of the Integrated Service Delivery model, which features a team of intervention and support professionals collaborating in the community to provide mental health, addiction, social and emotional support, and other services to children and youth.
  • Signed a 10-year Bilateral Health Agreement with the federal government that will bring an estimated additional investment of $230 million for home care and mental health to New Brunswick.
  • Allowing nurse practitioners, advanced care paramedics, pharmacists, and midwives to play the roles they have been trained to play in our health-care system.
  • Created the New Brunswick Seniors’ Home Renovation Tax Credit to help seniors make their homes safer and more accessible, so that they can stay in them for longer.
  • The addition of more than 1,000 new nursing home beds and memory care beds across the province.
  • Investing in several initiatives to help reduce wait times, including the hiring of new family physicians and specialists to increase access to primary health care.
  • Not closing rural hospitals.
  • Record investments in health care.

 

What We Heard

 

Firstly, it was mentioned at several forums that it was felt there is too much bureaucracy in the healthcare system. Participants of several forums were of the opinion that nurses and doctors (specialists) should be involved in the administration of hospitals in some way.

 

Increase focus on healthy living, in order to prevent illnesses and reduce healthcare expenditures in the future.

 

Participants raised the issue of persistently high wait times for various medical procedures and at emergency rooms. It was specified that wait times in some regions are better than others, but participants still worried about the misuse of services, which leads to overflowing emergency rooms.

 

Many participants maintained the need for additional nurses, advanced care paramedics, and other health care professionals.

 

On mental health:

  • Mental health initiatives are well received and it is believed government can and should do more.
  • Increase education around the usage of cannabis, with it soon becoming legal.

 

On nurse practitioners, advanced care paramedics, pharmacists, and midwives:

  • Plan for the retirement of nurses (& other health care workers).

 

On the Seniors staying home:

  • Help families who support elder family members: more support programs or tax credits.
  • Can students help seniors with home renovations through things such as high school shop class or NBCC trades programs?
  • Increased training and better wages for Home care workers (before and during).

 

On nursing homes:

  • Address bed shortages particularly in smaller communities.
  • Address issues around staff recruitment and retention.

 

On initiatives to reduce wait times and to increase access to primary health care:

  • Look at other jurisdictions; walk-in clinics are prolific and keep long hours, do not always require a family doctor.
  • Address the fundamental behaviour that propels NBers to seek treatment from a doctor, as opposed to flooding the healthcare system with doctors.
  • Provide wellness clinics for minor mobility issues – they later turn into major issues.
  • Implement collaborative practices and more after-hour walk-in clinics to cut down on long wait times (& better promotion and use of telecare 811).
  • Faster adoption and implementation of these new delivery models.

 

Protecting the Environment

 

“Climate change is the most important issue to face humankind in modern

times. New Brunswick must do its part to combat it. This plan will help us combat

climate change in a way that respects New Brunswick’s economy,

challenges and opportunities.” – Hon. Brian Gallant

 

What We’ve Accomplished

 

  • Your Liberal government released a new action plan as part of a made-in-New Brunswick response to climate change. Highlights of the plan include:
  • Providing the government leadership needed through more than 100 clear action items to support sustained and ambitious actions on combating climate change;
  • Expanding energy efficiency and clean energy programs across all sectors and all fuels with ambitious performance targets;
  • phasing out coal as a source of electricity, respecting New Brunswick’s economic reality and considering potential financial support from the federal government;
  • Planning for and investing in new technologies that reduce pollution, such as smart grid and renewable electricity;
  • establishing a made-in-New Brunswick price on carbon and caps on GHG emissions that reflect the reality of the New Brunswick economy;
  • There would be no new direct tax on consumers; instead, the government would redirect existing taxes on gasoline and diesel to fund programs that combat climate change;
  • Leading by example by making government carbon-neutral by 2030 and increasing spending on energy efficiency in the next capital budget by 50 per cent; and
  • Measuring and reporting progress with strong oversight by committees of cabinet and the Legislative Assembly.
  • Legislation has been introduced that would adopt the federal government’s intensity targets for large industrial emitters, requiring them to be among the cleanest in the country or pay to offset their pollution.  There will be no new direct tax on consumers; instead, the government will redirect existing taxes on gasoline and diesel to fund programs that combat climate change. The legislation sets out a modified hybrid carbon pricing system. Under the approach the government would deliver the carbon levy aspect of the pricing; and Environment and Climate Change Canada would deliver the output-based performance standards for New Brunswick’s large emitters.

 

What We Heard

 

On carbon pricing mechanism:

  • On right track.

 

On prevention plans:

  • Entire province should have a plan for extreme weather events.

 

On erosion:

  • Erosion is causing a decrease in river volume; in turn losing salmon population.  It is also an issue in some coastal communities.

 

On energy efficiency:

  • Helping people with energy efficiency is important – provide incentives for people to renovate their houses to improve efficiency which would spur economic activity.
  • NB Power seems to be continuously playing catch up on maintenance.
  • New infrastructure should be energy efficient.

 

On transportation:

Force vehicles to be more fuel efficient. Public transportation needed in rural areas in order to reduce carbon use/use of cars.

 

On marijuana:

  • Marijuana growers need to be environmentally friendly (lights) with new plants opening; must use sustainable electricity – incentives for using newer & made in NB tech?

 

Advancing Women’s Equality

 

“Studies show that advancing gender equality strengthens our economy

and improves the quality of life for our families. Advancing gender

equality is the right thing to do, and it will help grow our economy, strengthen

our education systems, and improve health care.” – Hon. Brian Gallant

 

What We’ve Accomplished

 

Some measures your Liberal government has taken include:

 

  • Appointing more than 50 per cent of women on government agencies, boards and commissions.
  • Introducing legislation to ensure funding and independence for the New Brunswick Women’s Council.
  • Tabling the Intimate Partner Violence Act to provide victims of intimate partner violence with additional tools to increase their safety while they seek more permanent solutions.
  • Carrying out gender-based analysis as part of its policy development process.
  • Amending a funding formula so that votes received by female candidates are weighted 1.5 times greater than votes received by male candidates to provide an incentive for parties to recruit more female candidates.
  • Implementing and maintaining pay equity as part of an ongoing government commitment to achieving equality for women in the province, giving a better quality of life to women, children and families.
  • Enhancing reproductive choices, including access to abortion, gender-confirming surgeries and birth certificate changes.

 

 

What We Heard

 

It was felt that the party was doing well in this area. Free daycare is great, and will get more women into the workforce.  There’s still a long way to go – getting more women into the work force and politics will change the social landscape. There has been improvement on listing gender on governmental documents.

 

On gender-based violence:

  • There is a lack of funding for transition homes.

 

On women in politics and in the workforce:

  • Promote and celebrate success stories of more women in the workforce and politics. Working with the industry to encourage women to work in non-traditional fields.

 

On pay equity:

  • Hope to see pay equity across all sectors one day. Encourage pay equity in the private sector (especially home care workers).
  • Any private company tendering for government contracts should have a pay equity plan.

 

On transgender issues: 

  • Government should remove mention of gender on drivers’ licences.